Author: Emma Heaps
A different way of looking at how to design a blended learning program is to think about how to make the best smoothie. Here's my recipe for the different ways to design a blended learning program that everyone will want to consume!
The term blended learning has become widely known, especially in the training industry. There does seem to be some confusion on what blended learning really is. It isn’t just the e-learning part of a training program. It’s about the whole learning experience for an individual, blending the right elements, and using different learning methods and technology to complement each other.
A different way of looking at how to design a blended learning program is to think about how to make the best smoothie.
Ask, don’t assume
You wouldn’t make a smoothie for someone without asking them what flavour they preferred, or put something in it they really didn’t like.
The same applies for a learning program. Ask people what they want, what learning method they prefer, what they’ve tried already and liked. At that point you can then suggest trying something they haven’t thought about, and getting them to try it for themselves to decide if it’s right for them.
Have the right ingredients
Getting the right ingredients planned out before you make your smoothie means you don’t spoil it with a random item. You would also try a few combinations to get the perfect flavor, because a one flavor smoothie isn’t going to be your best work.
The same goes for when you are designing learning: you have to try things out to know if they will work. Getting the right mix of learning tools is key, making sure you balance just enough virtual versus classroom, or watching a video versus reading an article. Not only getting the right learning ingredients, but getting them in the right order too, is vitally important.
Don’t be tempted to show off
Putting in the newest superfood or an exotic ingredient in a smoothie may prove something to yourself, but may not necessarily be right for the person drinking it.
It’s not about showing off what you can do with gamification or the newest virtual reality tool. It’s about the learner and what’s right for them. An engineer on the side of a motorway, with no internet access and using a new piece of equipment doesn’t need the instructions delivered by a humorous avatar on an online program that takes an hour. They want something practical, like a pocket sized, five-step simple instruction card.
Disguise if needed
If you are making a smoothie for a child, you may want to disguise an ingredient they wouldn’t necessarily choose to eat on their own. Mix it with other ingredients, and they will never know!
When it comes to most learning and development interventions, pre-work can be this difficult ingredient, because it doesn’t always work. It’s not the easiest thing to get learners engaged with, but making it part of the learning journey can help, so if it’s not singled out as ‘pre,’ it becomes part of the whole blend.
Quick tip, calling what is typically named pre-work as Module 1 can enable you to get better engagement.
Choose the right speed
When blending you can go at a fast speed, or at interval pulses: your blender has the ability to change speed depending on what you are trying to do.
When looking at blended learning, bite-size learning (pulses) enables the learner to take on board what they need to know at the right time. Too much information too fast is generally not effective for the individual or for the company return on investment represented by the learning activity. Nobody likes brain freeze!
With a smoothie, having the right ingredients at the right time can leave you feeling energized, healthy and ready to tackle the day. Learning should do the same thing, giving you the energy, knowledge and confidence to tackle real workplace issues.
Having learning available at the right time for the learner will make sure they get the most benefit from it. Giving users control of certain elements of their learning is also hugely helpful, since they can either choose when to do it, or have the learning there to go back to for reference when they need, in order to give them that refresh or boost.
Presentation is key
The content of the material (or ingredients) matter. If it looks brown and lumpy, nobody is going to want to try it!What your blended learning looks like it matters, since you have to engage people to want to try it. If it’s brightly colored, fresh, perhaps even representing something new, then it’s going to be more appealing. All the elements in a blended learning program need to have a similar style and definitely not have any spelling errors for people to get distracted by.
Perfect the recipe
It is essential during any learning journey to plan, execute, review, and adapt. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to blended learning, and you shouldn’t be afraid to change something that isn’t working.
It’s also important to remember that something that works one year for a group of people within a company may not work as well as you think it might the following year for a different group within that company. Equally, just because you have designed a learning intervention for a specific target group within an industry sector doesn’t mean that it will work in a straightforward way for a similar group in a similar industry. Always go back to step one – ask, don’t assume, and tweak the ingredients to get the perfect blended learning.
If you can think about the whole learning experience and can blend the different learning methods and technologies available so that they complement each other, you will produce something appealing and beneficial that everyone will want to consume.
This article was originally written by Emma Heaps (Booth) for The Training Industry.
Emma is head of the Primeast Client Solutions team with many years experience of designing effective, powerful learning solutions for clients. To start a conversation about the development challenges and opportunities your organisation faces, you can email her directly here, she'd love to hear from you.
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